We tend to focus on the catfighting and dysfunctional relationships on reality shows (this is why so many of us love or hate them), but if we zoom in we can learn a lot about our own life messes as we watch. For instance, we’ve been witnessing the stop-and-start relationship between Joe Budden and Tahiry Jose on Love & Hip Hop for several seasons now, and maybe we love their struggle love because we’ve all been in some crazy break-up-to-make-up roller-coaster relationship.

Nobody live tweets reality shows better than The Read phenomenon @kidfury. He tweeted the following a few weeks ago about Tahiry and Joe’s back and forth:

Fury is funny as hell and right on the money. We’ve all been in Tahiry’s (and possibly Joe’s) shoes.

Okay, maybe I’m speaking for all of you when I really should be speaking for myself. I spent several years “trying” in a relationship that I knew was going nowhere. Yes, I was in love, but I also had that young girl’s hope that only leads to too many years wasted and a broken, battered heart. I can also admit that I loved the chase; the testing; when he pretended that he needed me to breathe and couldn’t go on without me; him feeding my personal Jesus complex by pretending I was making him a better man; the make-up sex.

Tahiry (and all of us) can’t play victim when we see that our “Joe” hasn’t changed or progressed, because we normally know the deal long before we chose to say goodbye—if we ever do. We often waste our own time and break our own hearts

The foundations of why we constantly try to “make it work” with those unworthy of our effort and time certainly vary from person to person. I grew up watching a lot of dysfunctional relationships in my family, involving constant battling and often including infidelity. Although I knew these relationships weren’t necessarily healthy, I believed them to be authentic and normal, so I expected my own relationships to mirror them. Honestly, one of the main reasons I chose to divorce was because I didn’t want my daughter to view the type of dysfunction I’d inherited and mimic it in her adult relationships—generational curses be damned.

And to keep it fully one hundred, many of us simply don’t love ourselves enough to make better choices as we live and love others. We somehow don’t feel or understand that we deserve more than what we have and where we are. We wonder who’ll want us with our baggage and emotional issues, our children from past relationships, the extra 20 pounds we’ve gained since high school, or our lack of advancement in our careers and goals. We’re often so busy focusing on the things we loathe about ourselves that we forget we are magic. Others among us refuse to start over. We convince ourselves that the pain we’re experiencing is at least a familiar pain. 

And some of us, bless our hearts, just love too damn hard.

Even more, some of us just flat out worship the push and pull, the love and war, that tumultuous, up-and-down relationships provide. We are drama kings and queens. We pretend we want peace and balance in our lives, but we’d probably be bored to death if we had them long-term. Most relationships fail not because of who we are (control freaks, lovers of rachet lovers, etc.), but because we won’t be honest with ourselves or the people we’re dating about who we are. 

I know plenty of people (I used to be one!) who follow traditional courting, dating and commitment rituals, all the while knowing they want to be single, or serially monogamous—especially since this type of desire to be “free” is often frowned upon by our tradition-loving families and communities. 

And really, when we play these back and forth love tournaments, whether intentionally or otherwise, what is the endgame? We say we want our partners to better themselves and their behavior, but what’s motivating them to? If we constantly give in and accept our “Joes” back into our lives, regardless of how much we cry, scream and throw things, we’re only sending one message: that we enjoy and welcome abuse.

I’m watching along with everyone else to see how Tahiry and Joe turn out, and whether Kid Fury’s predictions are right. I’m at least glad that Tahiry chose not to accept Joe’s proposal, because a) clearly they aren’t ready for that type of commitment, and b) Joe can’t stop bragging on all the “sympathy box” being thrown his way since she turned him down.

Leopards and spots. Old dogs, old tricks. Let’s all do better, shall we?

Josie Pickens is an educator, cultural critic and soldier of love. Follow her musings on Twitter @jonubian.